The beef between White Sox shortstop and good bat-flipper Tim Anderson and the Kansas City Royals reared its ugly head again Wednesday night, when Anderson was plunked in the helmet in the second inning by Royals starter Glenn Sparkman. In an effort to get out ahead of any escalating hostility, home plate umpire Mark Carlson immediately tossed Sparkman for what upon further review could very easily have been a poorly thrown changeup.
As the Royals broadcast was at pains to point out, Sparkman’s pitch didn’t have the velocity of the usual chin-music message pitch, clocking in at a relatively breezy 86 miles per hour. Sparkman’s fastball goes into the low to mid-90s; both his changeup and slider coast along in the mid-80s, suggesting this could have been a mishandled off-speed pitch, and not a heater with bad intentions. And then there’s the body language of both Sparkman and catcher Martín Maldonado, both of whom seemed dejected and disappointed by the HBP. After the game Royals manager Ned Yost was adamant that Sparkman’s pitch was in no way an expression of animosity toward Anderson:
But there’s history to consider, here. The Royals had a dumb, minimally spiced beef with Anderson in 2018 which may have flavored a benches-clearing incident back in April, when Anderson was plunked in the can by Royals pitcher Brad Keller for celebrating an earlier dinger. Keller, Anderson, and a couple coaches were ejected from that game, and then, ridiculously, Anderson was suspended for a game for having reportedly called Keller a “weak-ass fucking N-word” during the exchange.
This series is the first between these two teams since that heated one last month, and this HBP was Anderson’s first plate appearance against the Royals since that April game, and the ball off his helmet was just the second pitch of the at-bat, and both of them were off the plate inside. It’s not totally unreasonable to think that Sparkman was at the very least trying to buzz Anderson, and lost his grip.
This story has a happy ending: Anderson stayed in the game and hit the go-ahead and eventual game-winning RBI double in the eighth inning, and after his team’s 8–7 win White Sox manager Rick Renteria said he didn’t believe Sparkman intended to plunk Anderson. And anyway it’s great how baseball teams are known for brushing this stuff off and moving on like grown-ups, so under no circumstances should we expect any further escalation when these teams meet again next week.